Saturday, 9 April 2011

Book Review: All I Can Handle by Kim Stagliano

All I Can Handle: I'm No Mother Teresa by Kim Stagliano is an interesting, funny and very readable autobiography of a mother of three autistic daughters. She candidly tells about her life with her daughters, her husband's unemployment and love affair with golf, and explains how she can be happier than she ever imagined, though this is certainly not what she ever thought her life would be like.
I enjoyed reading this book and felt like I could better understand what it means to have an autistic child. Rather than dwelling on horrible stories or even hour by hour, day by day blow by blows of her day, Stagliano gives us vignettes of memorable or typical times with her daughters. I found this quite powerful. 

Stagliano also introduces us to the world of politics within the autistic, medical, and pharmaceutical worlds. I love how she says that she would never tell anyone what to do, but that she is an advocate of getting all of the information you can and making a decision from there. Stagliano is not afraid to give her own controversial opinions in her book, but she it seems to me that she respects other people's opinions so long as they are informed and non-judgmental. It is very clear that she is quite vocal and is seen as contentious by many. 

The level of humour and grace that Stagliano is able to maintain is amazing - she freely admits that she has bad times, times when she feels like screaming. She is able to take a situation that most of us could never imagine and see the joy and happiness in it. I especially love her last chapter entitled "My Turn," when a friend of hers, who also has an autistic child and has also taken care of her sick and elderly parents, wonders when it will be her turn. Kim counters that this is her turn. This is her life. It is all we get and she is not going to waste it. She has the opportunity to appreciate so many little things about life, things that others take for granted. There is a valuable lesson for us all.

My only criticism of the book is that is it repetitive at times. Though annoying, it can maybe be understood given the chit chatty nature of the book. It almost feels as if she is talking to a friend.

Throughout the book Stagliano believes that treatment of autism is the answer and dreams of the day when her daughters' autism will be cured, not that she doesn't love them, but of course she wants their lives to be better and easier, she worries what will happen to them when she and her husband are gone. Her hope is infectious and becomes our hope as we read this book.

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